Not that you really needed an excuse, but in honor of International Coffee Day 2020, we would like to raise a cup.
Our love for coffee goes beyond the Seattle purveyor who added tall, grande and vente into our daily vernacular.
Coffee knows how to travel — and the best comes from all over the world. The origins of coffee are global, of course: 15th-century Arabs were the first to cultivate coffee and a Frenchman was behind the 1843 debut of the world’s first commercial espresso machine.
There have been a few leaps forward since then, and we don’t mean the advent of the Frappuccino. So go get a refill and then read on about the world’s best coffee destinations and how they make it:
Table of Contents
Wellington, New Zealand
While the ubiquitous flat white — sort of like a latte with less milk — was purportedly invented in Sydney, the drink was perfected in Wellington, New Zealand, where it’s become the nation’s unofficial national beverage.
“Wellington-ites really know their coffee, and there is a very high standard being served around the city,” says New Zealand coffee producer Nick Clark of Flight Coffee Unlimited. “Wellington is also a small city. There’s a lot of interaction between consumers and professionals, which helps our industry to improve and grow.”
Local order: Flat white. It’s a religion.
“The coffee culture in Melbourne is just incredible,” says former World Barista Champion Pete Licata from the United States. Coffee is such an integral part of the Melbourne lifestyle that the city even hosts an annual coffee expo.
Local order: Piccolo latte.
While lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites remain popular, piccolo lattes (made with less milk so the espresso tastes stronger) are the drink du jour.
Coffee is deep in the DNA of Vietnam, and the country is one of the biggest producers of the beans in the world.
When Vietnam was a colony of France, the French established coffee plantations across the country in the late 19th century, and, if you’re in the capital, Hanoi, you don’t have to go far for a fantastic cup.
Don’t expect a flat white or an Americano here, though.
Coffee is brewed in a traditional filter, dripping into a single cup below, producing a thick, intense brew that is sipped black or enjoyed with the traditional sweetened condensed milk. It’s something the Vietnamese became accustomed to when fresh milk was in short supply.
Popular on Instagram and with locals is ca phe trung, the egg coffee — in which a creamy, meringue-like egg white foam is placed on top of a black coffee.
Local order: Caphe den (thick black, slow brewed), or caphe sua (black with sweetened condensed milk) or coconut coffee (frozen coconut milk mixed with rich black coffee topped with shaved coconut ice — like egg coffee, it’s more a dessert than a drink).
Aussies and Kiwis famously opened the city’s first espresso-focused coffee shops roughly 20 years ago — bringing along their beloved flat whites — and more modern cafes have been popping up across the city ever since.
Tea may still be king in England, but Londoners have some bloody good coffee on offer now too.
Local order: Flat white or cappuccino.
Scandinavians have some of the highest coffee consumption per capita in the world, according to WorldAtlas.com. That includes coffee-crazy Icelanders, who occupy one of the most scenic — but also coldest — places on Earth.
One generation ago, coffee and cake was a standard afternoon break, but people focused more on the quality of the cake than the coffee. That’s changed dramatically; now you can hardly walk a city block without passing a coffee shop.
And with Iceland’s lack of commercial coffee behemoths, smaller businesses have had a chance to flourish.
Local order: Latte or cappuccino.
Coffee is so much a part of Italian culture that you’ll rarely encounter a local who doesn’t drink it. But believe it or not, it’s not always that easy to find a decent espresso in Italy, with critics whispering that Italians have been resistant to adopt modern barista techniques.
With the best of the nation’s baristas calling it home, Rome is your best bet for a quality cup.
Local order: Espresso. Custom dictates that milky coffees can only be consumed at breakfast.
Coffee has always been an integral part of life in Singapore — the old tradition of kopitiam, or coffee shop culture, goes back centuries. But the city’s only recently embraced modern espresso technology — nowadays, latté art is an expected part of cafe service.
Local order: Latte, mocha or cappuccino.
If there’s one American city that’s consistently ahead of the game, it’s Seattle. The green mermaid is only a small part of the hometown coffee scene.
“Coffee is our liquid sunshine in Seattle,” says coffee consultant Joshua Boyt, a former SCA World Barista competition judge. “Passion for the product, coupled with the sheer number of coffee shops across the city, has created a culture of constant improvement through competition and camaraderie.”
Local order: Espresso, cappuccino or a single-origin pour.
They’re such an important part of Viennese culture that the city’s coffee houses were listed by UNESCO in 2011 as an Intangible Heritage.
Modern coffee connoisseurs such as Vienna coffee blogger Lameen Abdul-Malik of From Coffee With Love admit that the standard of coffee in these beloved institutions, which act as public living rooms where people come to chat, read newspapers and eat strudel, were lagging in terms of coffee technology and service expectations.
That’s started changing after Vienna hosted the World Barista Championships in 2012, and new-style independent coffee shops opened, says Abdul-Malik.
Local order: Espresso or cappuccino in a new style cafe. Or a Weiner melange (similar to a cappuccino, but usually topped with cream) in a traditional coffeehouse.
Coffee was likely born in Africa — historians peg it to pre-15th-century Ethiopia — but Nigeria is one country’s that been slower to get into coffee culture. That’s been changing in recent years. Coffee culture is percolating there.
Local order: Regular filtered coffee, black or with milk, or yes, their version of Frappuccino.
A version of this story was first published in 2014, and it has been reformatted and updated for 2020.